Working with AURES, there have been some standout stories along the way. The crux of the matter is that with the YUNO and the ODP333, we have great offerings that fully service all our needs. They are well designed, good looking, high enough spec and durable enough for all uses.”
James O’Sullivan, CEO
Like a fine cocktail one of its clients might serve, KOBAS is a beautifully balanced blend of ingredients. Take equal parts programming expertise and hospitality industry experience, shake them up with a passion for service and a sense of fun, and you have the perfect recipe for a software services provider catering for the nightlife sector and beyond.
Founder and CEO James O’Sullivan traces the company’s origins back to a favour he did for some friends. “I wrote the first parts to KOBAS, before it was called KOBAS, back in 2009 for a group of my friends that run three bars in south west London,” he said. “They had some spreadsheets to control their deliveries and stock counts but to get their group GP they had to copy and paste each week and it was becoming a pain. They knew I could write databases and asked if I could help.”
Additions of tools for cash control, rotas and reservations followed. Then, through an old acquaintance from his days in nightclub management, James secured a contract with cocktail bar chain BeAtOne. He started to believe his fledgling software platform might present a viable business opportunity.
“My long-time friend Neil Mukerji joined as my COO and we started to re-write a lot of KOBAS with a view to serving a larger market,” said James. “Over the last 4 years we’ve grown as a company and a product into something that is barely recognisable from those early days.
“We’re now in close to 200 venues operated by nearly 50 clients across the UK and Northern Ireland. BeAtOne is still with us, now running 33 venues and still just about our largest client. We’re still pretty true to our roots, we only deal with food or drink-led operations in all their forms: pubs, bars, restaurants, quick service food, night clubs and the like.”
Moving into EPOS
James admits that KOBAS was “late to the game” adding EPOS as he initially planned on integrating with other products rather than developing his own.
“The change in stance is one of the most important we’ve done in the life of KOBAS,” he admits. “While the rest of what we do is great and can live without EPOS, it is a major focus for data and interaction. Knowing the items someone has sold (along with their recipe etc) means you can give a theory versus actual usage report. Loyalty customers can be scanned at the till so you know what they bought, where, when and from whom. To date, our EPOS has taken nearly £200m (€250m) and our loyalty scheme has over 350,000 people in it.”
EPOS has presented particular technical challenges to KOBAS, which offers all of its software as cloud and web browser-based platforms for ease of deployment. “Writing browser-based platforms gives us a huge advantage over traditional software as we can develop and deploy our tech at a fraction of the cost,” James explained. “It also means that for clients with reasonably new tills that run Windows or Linux, they don’t need to change their hardware to move to KOBAS.
“Web browsers are, however, designed not to be allowed to interact directly with the hardware of the machine they’re being run on. This is the right call as you wouldn’t want a dodgy website to be able to burn out your CPU or erase your hard drive. For us it meant working out a way to do a few minor tasks that had a big impact, namely opening cash drawers and printing receipts. We’ve come up with some novel solutions and you wouldn’t know KOBAS EPOS was a web page unless you were told it was.”
Persevering with a browser-based EPOS solution was also easier than handling compatibility issues between the rest of the KOBAS suite and external EPOS platforms. As a consequence of this, James is pleased that KOBAS EPOS can now help customers handle their own compatibility issues with other services. “This has come into sharper focus in recent years with the explosion of software solutions for hospitality venues for everything from paying for your bill, ordering online, stock management, task control, loyalty and much more,” he said.
“All these apps need to integrate with the POS system the client uses. We are now the gatekeeper to third parties and we do work with a select number that offer something we’re not interested in offering ourselves. Importantly, we can offer a version of that software within KOBAS, either for free or for a fraction of the cost.”
AURES: A strong bond
Although KOBAS is designed to run on any Windows or Linux-based point of sale terminal, the company does offer hardware installations. For the past five years, it has more or less exclusively supplied AURES hardware to customers, something James puts down to the strong working relationship he has with AURES Account Manager Jason Southern.
He explains how Jason took the time to visit KOBAS after James had first come across the AURES J2 615 till. “I made an approach, saying that initially it was only for 2 tills, printers and cash drawers, but that it would grow over time,” said James. “That was when Jason came down to see us. Even though he knew this was for a pretty small deal to start with, he still made the trip and gave me all the time and answers I needed. And so we grew from there and I was pleased to have been true to my word – every order I placed in the following 18 months was for more kit than the previous one.”
KOBAS nowadays largely supplies AURES YUNO terminals, a compact and versatile all-in-one product which combines powerful processing with a scratch-proof PCAP touchscreen. AURES ODP333 printers are also popular with clients.
James believes one of the best measures of customer satisfaction with the hardware is how few reports they get of problems or requests for assistance. “It’s one of those cases where no news is good news,” he said. “It is notable, however, how reliable the YUNOs have been. The metal construction makes them feel sturdy and take a bit of a pounding, and the glass is really hard to damage.
“Printing, one of my pet hates, is something we’re able to do very well with the ODP333s as they support a network connection. This means they can be placed anywhere they want in the venue, not just near a physical till as everything is controlled by the server. Also, as the YUNO supports a cash drawer port, we can open them directly from the unit rather than going via a printer.
“Finally, the fact that the YUNO can be wall mounted with a very low profile does help with the look and feel of our clients’ venues.”
Overall, James believes the successful partnership between KOBAS and AURES has come about through a combination of outstanding service and quality products.
“Working with AURES, there have been some standout stories along the way,” he said. “The crux of the matter is that with the YUNO and the ODP333, we have great offerings that fully service all our needs. They are well designed, good looking, high enough spec and durable enough for all uses.
“Jason is also a key factor for us, he really is prepared to go the extra mile. We were once asked by a large venue if we could install a 10 till rig on Friday – this was Monday afternoon – as their current provider was awful and costing them money. I called Jason, he pulled out all the stops, got the kit to me on Wednesday PM, we built it Thursday and installed it the next morning.
“They ended up taking £35k that day, a record for them by £8k and for us by a lot more. That record stood for 14 months, until they broke it themselves the following summer when we’d upgraded them to a 15 till rig!
“Most recently, in March this year, we won a contract for a group with 27 venues, and they wanted to pay for the hardware over a number of months and do the installation to all sites in 5 days. AURES was able to help with some payment terms for the hardware, giving me 12 weeks to pay, and it allowed us to meet the client’s expectations fully.”
On the flipside of this, James believes the quality of AURES hardware has helped to secure greater buy-in from customers. “The best client to use here I think is True North Brew Co. They operate 10 venues in and around Sheffield. We rolled out to them over a 3 month period replacing 85 per cent of their hardware, reusing some Partner tills to fit their budget. Since then, we’ve pretty much not had a single issue and the venue managers keep asking to get their old kit replaced. They have now heavily bought into us, using pretty much every part of KOBAS to run their entire business.”
KOBAS is a Cloud-based software service for end-to-end hospitality management. Used to manage EPOS, stock control, HR, customer loyalty schemes and much more, KOBAS provides exceptional insight across a business while simplifying operations for your whole team. As a web-based platform, it can be accessed from anywhere, at any time, providing complete flexibility with control at your fingertips.
Backed up by outstanding support from a small, dedicated UK team, KOBAS is an ideal solution for bars, pubs, cafes, clubs, quick service food and fine dining restaurants of all sizes.
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